Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing

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Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing

WILMINGTON, Mass. The one thing Milan Lucic cant do in the face of greater NHL scrutiny is change the way he plays the game.

Milan Lucic forcibly sat out his first game of the season Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens after he was suspended by the league for a boarding call on Philadelphia Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. The play itself appeared to be boarding to the naked eye and was tagged with a five-minute major and game misconduct at the time, and Brendan Shanahan tacked on a game for good measure.

Shanahan mentioned Lucics prior history of warnings and fines for a handful of previous incidents leading up to the suspension, and theres little doubt his demolition derby hit on Ryan Miller played into the most recent penalty. The one-game vacation actually wasnt the worst thing in the world to give the left winger a breather in the middle of a season that will be getting very busy for the Bruins during the month of January.

Lucic even joked that the boarding hit got him a key role as a bomb-tossing villain in the HBO 247: Road to the Winter Classic with Wayne Simmonds chasing after like a faux tough guy after the refs stepped in between the two players.

Got my name on HBO, so I guess you get on that show any way you can, right? said a smiling Lucic, who watched the new episode on Wednesday night.

But its not something Lucic wants to get used to, or experience more of in growing increments. Its not something he wants to see, its not something that fans want to see and its certainly not a softness that the Bs coaching staff wants to watch creep into Lucics power-packed game.

Were going to make sure we let him know that we dont want him to change his style, said Claude Julien. The suspension was because of different things. One was a playoff thing that had nothing do with a hit, and the other was a collision with Miller that maybe when they looked back on it they felt like they should have called him for that. Maybe if it had it would have diminished this last suspension, but were just going to ask him to go out and play.

Were a physical team and we dont want that to creep out of our game. The NHL doesnt want that element to creep out of that game either. We want to manage it the best way we can, but you certainly dont want players playing afraid to finish off their checks.

On the other hand, Lucic cant turn his back from the player that leads the Bruins with 73 registered hits this season either. The power forward has led the Bruins over the past four years with 751 registered hits while averaging 188 body checks per season over that four season span that includes an injury-plagued season two years ago.

Thats a ton of demolition derby style hockey hits without any suspensions or egregious acts to injure fellow players, so theres plenty of evidence that Lucic is doing things the right way.

Some players feed on the physicality and emotion between the whistles, and Lucic is one of those emotionally nourished players. The power forwards worst spells in the NHL have come when he drifts away from the body checks and unrelenting intimidation his size and strength combo would suggest.

So altering his game after a standout four-year career thats seen him collect a 30-goal season, a Stanley Cup and a reputation as one of the most fearsome players in the NHL isnt going to happen.

I cant change my game, said Lucic. I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol. Obviously a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion, and I cant lose that part of my game. Thats for sure.

One could imagine what would happen if Lucic suddenly became gun shy or hesitant when it come to punishing defensemen with merciless forechecks. Or if Lucic suddenly avoided standing up for teammates such as the Rinaldo case when he sped to Nathan Hortons defense after two Flyers players -- including Rinaldo -- attempted a Malachi crunch on Lucics linemate.

Lucic is able to do all of these things on the edge of good, honest hockey without continually going over the edge, and that was the point he most clearly tried to get across to Shanahan during their phone conversation.

Obviously you dont want to hear from Shanahan again and I was upset that I had to go through that whole process. Its not a guy you want to talk to too much for those reasons, said Lucic. But I wanted to make clear that I understand what hes trying to do and I also understand that Im doing everything I can to make dangerous hits. Thats what Im trying to do in that conversation.

Lucic has five seasons, 300 plus games and more than 800 hits in a respect hockey career without any previous regular season suspensions to vouch for the way he plays the game. So there is ample evidence the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder shouldnt change a thing despite the NHL microscope he now finds himself under following his first instance being Shanabanned.

OFFSEASON

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

BOSTON – It’s a toss-up as to which was celebrated more by Boston Celtics fans: Dwight Howard coming to terms with the Atlanta Hawks, or the fact that it significantly improves Boston’s chances of landing one of their top free agent targets Al Horford.

A league executive texted CSNNE.com that Howard being off the market and going to Atlanta, should make the Celtics the favorite to land Horford.

Acquiring Horford, a four-time all-star, would be the biggest free agent signing in the Danny Ainge era. Boston is scheduled to meet with Horford tonight and is expected to offer him a four-year, $113 million max contract.

But as much as the Celtics want Horford, their primary target remains Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant who may be more inclined to seriously consider Boston if they were to acquire Horford.

OFFSEASON

Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

After signing with the Blazers, Evan Turner has been making the rounds showering praise on the Celtics organization and fans. He also left a farewell gift for those excited about free agency: Turner told the Boston Globe that Danny Ainge “seemed confident” at the Celtics’ chances of signing free agent center Al Horford.

Previous reports indicated that the Celtics plan to make a max-contract offer to Horford when they meet him Friday night in Atlanta. The Rockets are the only other team that has reportedly met with the former Hawks All-Star, and Houston's situation isn’t nearly as attractive as Boston’s.

If the Celtics do manage to land Horford on Friday, they’d obviously be adding a former All-Star who’d immediately help the team on both ends of the floor. Immediately, though, Horford would give them another recruiter. Horford and Durant reportedly would like to play with each other, so having him enter the room might help their chances at luring Durant to Boston during Saturday's meeting.

As for Turner, he told the Globe that Ainge expressed he would like him back, but would've had to take a pay cut and a reduced role.

"I liked Boston a lot, bro. The organization, and it’s just a sports city and the city is super nice," Turner told the Globe. "If you put money and everything aside, I would play in Boston every single day of the week. Seeing all those Hall of Famers come back and everything, that’s a real franchise."

The Celtics will likely be saying singing a similar tune to both Horford and Durant this weekend.

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam